OUTLOOK '21: Circularity grows across global markets
2020-12-29    [Source:PUdaily]
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Regional markets across the globe have faced the full effects of the pandemic and distracted governments from developing and implementing initiatives to create greater circularity in plastic resources.

Like Europe, governments across the world will remain preoccupied with the pandemic and fiscal pressure it creates.

However, the change of administration in the US offers the potential for new regulation supporting environmental activity including recycling programmes.  Regulatory developments at state level continue to build and are anticipated to increase from 2021.

The goals of the US Plastics Pact, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, will also come into effect and signatories will be keen to show progress towards these, increasing circularity of resources including recycling.

Despite recent efforts from local governments and associations, questions remain as to when and where investment in the waste management infrastructure will come from. As a result, collection will remain a weak part of the chain throughout 2021.

In Asia, regulation on single-use plastics bans is likely to be reintroduced in 2021.

Conversely the level of investment and support to develop more circular flows for plastic wastes within the region is set to flourish, with a specific focus on the preferred route of recycling.

Coupled with regulatory developments, the corporate focus on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals will support the appetite for greater reuse of resources in the longer term but starting in 2021.

Brands and FMCGs will continue to expand ambitions for more sustainable products and packaging across regional markets, focusing in the first instance on those markets most able to adapt.

The greatest pressure remains the pricing dynamics of the market, where low values disincentivise the collection, sorting and recycling of plastic wastes but high values act as a disincentive to the use of recycled polymer feedstocks and price volatility is likely to remain a challenge for greater adoption of recycled content throughout 2021.

That said, many markets outside of Europe operate with informal workers who collect the plastic waste and upon whom those markets are dependent for recycle feedstocks.

There will be increasing support of this sector of the industry as the supply chain recognises, or is forced to recognise, the value of these workers.  Greater emphasis on better working conditions and fair pay is anticipated moving forward.

The level of investment in recycling projects in Asia, already announced, is substantial.  With waste management companies at the helm in many instances, larger scale plants producing high quality recycled polymers are set to start up in 2021 and beyond.

This is in part to tackle the waste produced but without a waste management system in most markets but also to build a greater supply of recycled material to serve the ambitions of global and major brands particularly in packaging and consumer goods markets.

Collaboration within the supply chain will be prevalent in regional markets as players look to utilise best practices as well as develop local solutions for local needs. In the Americas the focus on polyolefin recycle markets as well as chemical recycling will build on the progress made in 2020.

And naturally the California regulation on minimum recycled content levels in plastic beverage containers, which is influencing discussions in other states, will drive the supply and demand for associated recyclates with immediate effect.

Global trade flows for plastic wastes will be constrained as regulation such as the Basel Convention take effect and markets reduce exporting waste as a route to recycle.

This will allow Asian markets in particular a stronger focus on solutions for managing local waste and the preferred end-of-life route of recycling. Further regulatory measures can be expected as Asian governments take action to protect the population and end markets from the hazardous and unrecyclable waste from overseas markets.

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